And Another Author Goes Rogue . . . this time on Youtube

This is author Joe Simpson. He’s the author of Touching the Void and now cofounder of DirectAuthors.com.

For those of you that don’t remember, Touching the Void first appeared 25 years ago. It’s the true story of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates and their incredible survival of a mountaineering trip in the Peruvian Andes that went terribly wrong.

In a world filled with CGI adventures that happen in dystopian fantasy worlds, this is real adventure happening to real people in real time. It is stuffed with very human, actual, life-and-death decisions, that leave readers with long lingering “but what would I have done?” moments to ponder in the wee hours of the night.

Simpson is the author of several books but he recently got into a dust up with his publishers over (no surprise here) e-book royalties. He didn’t feel 25% was sufficient, so he’s going to publish the e-versions of a his works on his own, and to do that he’s created DirectAuthors.com.

Venturing out on one’s own is something a lot of authors, well-known and not, are choosing to do these days. We thought you’d find it interesting to hear from an well-known author, who has had a long-standing good relationship with a publishing house, state his reasons for deciding it was better to eBook on his own.

Book Reviews Deleted By Amazon?

Because of the serious nature of this story, we are just going to reprint it . . . . It’s by Alison Flood of The Guardian (in the UK).

You can also go directly to the article: Amazon Removes Book Reviews By Fellow Authors

Or jump over to Joe Konrath’s Website to learn more.

Amazon is understood to have deleted a wave of reviews by authors of their fellow writers’ books in what is believed to be a response to the “sock puppet” scandal.

Authors including Joe Konrath and Steve Weddle have reported that some of their reviews have been removed from Amazon, and the Kindle talk boards are also awash with discussions about disappearing reviews.

On enquiring about the deletions, Konrath and Weddle say they were pointed to updated guidelines. These state that “sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)” are not allowed.

“I took a look at the reviews I’d written, and saw more than 50 of them had been removed – namely reviews I did of my peers. I don’t read reviews people give me, but I do keep track of numbers and averages, and I’ve also lost a fair amount of reviews,” wrote Konrath, formerly a staunch defender of Amazon who has published novels on the Kindle.

Konrath and Weddle both believe the move from Amazon is a reaction to September’s revelations that authors were posting positive reviews of their own work, and negative writeups of rivals, under pseudonyms on the Amazon website. This led to a host of authors including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Roger McGough signing up to a letter “condemn[ing] this behaviour, and commit[ting] never to use such tactics”.

In Konrath’s letter to Amazon about the move, which he posted on his website, he writes that “people are seriously disappointed in how Amazon handled this”. He suggested it was “a kneejerk, inappropriate reaction to a ridiculous case of unjustified moral panic, and a Big Fail”, adding: “The fact that a binder can get a thousand fake reviews because of Romney’s comment, but I can’t honestly review one of my peers because I’m an author, is a bit silly, don’t you think? Amazon allows one-star reviews from people who haven’t even read the book, but deletes positive reviews from people who honestly enjoyed it, and somehow that’s improving your review system?”

Weddle also believes the move was the wrong one. “The problem with the sock-puppet scandal is that Amazon had authors reviewing their own books. So they’ve attempted to correct that by prohibiting authors from reviewing other authors’ books. That’s just making a new problem,” he told the Guardian. “Again, I completely appreciate that something needs to be done, and I applaud their doing something. Just, you know, not thisthing that they’ve done. What happens when a publisher such as Randy Penguin (or whatever the new name will be) asks Lee Child to blurb the new Alafair Burke book? Since they know each other, will this not be allowed on Amazon’s site? … As an author whose stories have popped up in a number of anthologies, am I not allowed to review a book if I’ve shared space with another author? If I’ve had a drink with a fellow author at the Bouchercon bar, can I not say that I enjoyed their book?”

Jeremy Duns, the author instrumental in outing RJ Ellory as the author of pseudonymous reviews, and in putting together the letter condemning the practice, said it was “absurd to blame a letter condemning some writers’ fraudulent review practices and calling on readers to counter them by writing their own genuine reviews with subsequent repeated heavy-handed and unfair responses from Amazon”.

“I also don’t think they necessarily decided to act as a result of our letter,” said Duns. “It seems it may be a renewed attempt to crack down on writers who ‘gift’ reviewers copies of their ebooks so they increase their sales ranking, lifting their visibility on Amazon as well as meaning that any subsequent review is marked as a ‘Verified Purchase’, giving it more authority.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

In short dear authors, if a bookstore owner reads your book and likes it and then decides to review it on Amazon that’s a breach —even though you don’t know the bookstore owner! Totally wacko.

And if this doesn’t worry you, because you’re just a reader, have a look at this Kindle user’s recent experience. It’s no wonder Philip Roth has told a French paper recently that he’s retired from writing.

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 1:34 AM  Leave a Comment  
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If you’ve decide to go with a blog . . . Why WordPress is a writer’s best friend — how to make your best stuff even better

Blog posts represent your talent and marketing abilities to large, established agents and publishers, who are more risk averse because generally they’re going to make a bigger investment in your career than a smaller publisher. If you’re set on fame and fortune and the bright lights of HarperCollins or its ilk . . . having a blog is a huge plus.

Well-known authors don’t really need a blog. New authors seeking attention from the big guys, really do. We at FAB read some websites regularly, and guess what, we’d probably publish those people if they sent us a query and a work that fit our parameters. Large publishers do the same. As do agents.

We recommend WordPress for a variety of reasons, but not least because it’s so versatile. There’s a loads of themes to choose from and for a little extra money ($30 a year) you can really go to town and make it your own — which we highly, highly recommend. Easy to use, easy to set up and integrate with other social media, easy to switch around until you find your “it look” that drives up more traffic, WP is “da bomb” as one of our less trendy associate’s (Oz!) likes to say.

Blogs are good for other reasons too. Even if you’re having an awful writing day when it comes to your book, you can look at your blog and remind yourself that every time you blog (or tweet, or facebook), you’re adding to your book’s marketing campaign and your showing potential agents/publishers that you will put out the effort it takes to make sales.

Some things you may need to keep in mind with your blog, is your book’s target buyers. You should be writing in a style that they can expect to read more of if they buy the book. If that swearing is part and parcel of your style, and in your book, stick with it on the blog. The worst thing you can do to a reader is give them something the didn’t expect — in a bad way. As long as your honest about your writing, it’s ok.

Ditto the content.  Think more critically about your blog/tweet/facebook posting because at certain point, particularly with blogs, you can end up spending time and effort just giving away future saleable content. Every author has to decide, based on what’s actually going into her/his book, where that point is but publishers aren’t interested in trying to sell content you’ve already given away.

When we at FAB, as publishers, look at posts we really enjoy, we tend to think:

“OK, proven writing ability, strong marketer, good concept! But what’s going into the book that isn’t on the blog? Will it be more great stuff like this, woven together to make a great magic carpet ride for the reader? Or are we reading all the best stuff? Is there more better stuff?  Will webe thinking “the best stuff on earth just keeps getting better” when we see the manuscript? Or will we be thinking, we’ve already read this stuff, or, worse, this wasn’t at all the stuff we were expecting based on the marketing campaign (ie, the blog).”

All these might be questions to ask before hitting “publish” on a blog.  On a WordPress blog.

And ok, for pete’s sake, use a blog publishers can actually read, something like Manifest, or Twenty-Ten.  Nothing turns off people who are there to read faster than black/grey/grungy overdone blogs. We mean it. They’re hard to read, clunky, depressing, ugly and in general tell people who love to read “don’t read this.”  If we see a big black header, on drab blog, with little non-serif thin grey type, on a blue  grey background, we get eyestrain in 1 post, and guess what? We won’t read anymore and you loose your opportunity.

Koi is a nice theme, it’s just not professional unless you write about something Asian themed. But the overall type and layout are good and if you change the background, it can work.  Twenty-eleven is a good theme, but it has a hard to read (ie, non serif) font (which you could customize into serif with an upgrade). Chateau could work, but not if you choose black as the background and load it with widgets. Matala is readable, but screams childrens books, comedy, or travel writer.  Whimsy is good, silly is bad. Matala is whimsy.

We use Quentin for this blog, but it has been retired. For something like it, see Elegant Grunge (if you choose this, customize it!). The things you want in a blog theme are easy to read font (usually black type in a serif font in a point size, say 10+), on a white or light background (that isn’t in a grey hue), where the posts are to the left (if you opt for 2 columns or more).  The first thing people who read left to right want to see, is the posts you want them to read. If we see a bunch of left-side widgets . . . click, we go to the next blog.

You are showcasing your writing. If the thing you see first when the page come us is something other than clear, clean, easy to read dark text on a pale neutral or white background, some readers (read publishers) don’t bother. We’re one of them.  But we also want to see your personality, so get the upgrade and personalize the theme even if it’s just in some minor way such as changing the color of your type or its style.

If you don’t have or even want a website, don’t worry, create a BIG web presence for yourself instead!

 

The Book Publicity Blog is a pretty great place to hang out. We would suggest that you subscribe to the site, it will keep you up to date on . . . practically everything publishing publicity related, and allow you to help your (prospective, future) publisher, help yourself.  Most recently Yen’s put up a great post on DIY book promotion and publicity, with an awesome mention on what in-house publicity teams do for large houses.

However we are directing you to a post on  what to include on author websites, which though probably slightly dated at this point, is still excellent. And for a look at a very well known author’s website that hits all the key points, see Barbara Kingsolver’s site . In essence, a good website will

  • Increase book sales
  • Build and maintain a loyal fanbase
  • Attract agents and publishers
  • Interact with readers
  • Spread the word about book signings and speaking engagements
  • Sell your book online
  • Promote yourself and any services you offer
  • Highlight future books before they’re released
  • Get the word out about your book and your website

If you still can’t bring yourself to have a website, consider having a web presence without website. For more on how to that, check out the Wall Street Journal’s article on same.  But the short version is setting up static and active feeds that basically replace a website / blog.

For instance, if you are LinkedIN as an author, have  a Twitter account, that updates your Facebook account, that’s pretty much alive on the web.  Other options: write up a wikipedia entry  on yourself, start a tumblelog on Tumblr to which you can post just about anything, and give yourself an About.me, page that’s the equivalent of a business card / promo.

If you really don’t want to do the whole blog thing, it’s ok.  But free blogs (traditional: WordPress or nontraditional: Tumbelog) can serve as websites with benefits, hooking up your facebook, twitter, and other things. This makes posting across the spectrum a one and done deal.

Yes, dear writer, social media is a plus, although you probably could get away without it, but it depends on your goal

In the past writers became famous through their books, today it’s more likely their books become famous because of an existing website, which is why most major publishing houses want you to have a website (actually they want you to have blog) to which you post regularly (3x a week) which basically turns you into a marketer, drains your creative talent and time, and forces you to give away content . . . uh, wait, why are you doing this again? Oh yeah, you want a major publisher.  Or maybe, just a publisher.

Your website represents your professional image (your brand).  Today your online image is “that dude that writes the Drunken Puppies blog” or that “Gluten Free Girl” or  . . . But now, before you start agent hunting, or sending out solicited submissions, is the time to start building your brand (especially if you’re going self-publishing or become a publisher to publish your own and others work, or looking to find a big publisher).

We recommend you pop over to Michael Hyatt‘s site and take a look at some of his posts on publishing, but in particular Seven ways to build your author brand online. It’s basic, but trust us, most authors won’t even do the basics.  Michael is the chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishing, so he knows of what he speaks.

Yes, we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but while you’re writing your book, you probably need to be quietly going about putting together a website under your own name (or pen name). List your accomplishments, get some nice photos of yourself up. You needn’t share your new site or make it public right away, but there will come a time when a publisher will expect to see / know the real you, because that’s who they’ll be marketing.

Bigger houses will want to see a blog.  Big authors, recognized ones, can get away with colorful sites and no blogs. New authors, not so much. And unknown authors . . . they really need to stick to plain websites that showcase their writing to build up a following, which always looks good to marketing at big publishing houses.

At that point “Drunken Puppies Dude” will become simply become the blog of newly published author ” your name here.”  And do read the books of Gluten Free Girl!  She’s a classic example of how blogging and being true to yourself can lead you to authoring your best life (and help a lot of other people in the world at the same time).

Caution: Men at Work

Rupert Murdoch has begun charging for online newspaper content; albeit on a very small newspaper (30,000 print copies a day). It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  People who subscribe might well cut and paste to send a story around.  Or scan it and put it online. Knowing Rupert Murdoch’s savvy business sense, we’d expect he’s prepared for this battle.  And it’s a good thing.

Laws governing the internet need to be overhauled to protect the IP rights of everyone. Content and information are valuable commodities.  They should be treated as such. Tech companies have known this for a long time, and profited from it. It’s only just dawning on governments and individuals.  This is why the FCC is working on revising the current net policies.  The report is due out in March.

We’ve come to a point where the WWW is a national and international highway of commerce. Like other highways, this vital e-infrastructure everyone needs and everyone benefits from should be maintained and governed by regional and national bodies everyone voted for.   A sort of e-public works.

The filing of opinions an briefs deadline with the FCC was midnight Jan 14.  Many companies waited to file until then.  The FCC was flooded with opinions, all of which are being made public now.  As did a many many other tech companies, lobbyists, and consumer advocates interested in the FCC’s net policies. Cnet has a good round up article.

But take a look at Songwriters Guild of America’s position. They understand that tech companies are trying to enshrine piracy in to the law, in direct violation of copyright law.  If you question this have a look at the joint filing of Google and Verizon. They feel copyrights are well protected, which we all know from the lawsuits going on worldwide, are not.

The net is not neutral, it’s not free.  It is a medium of commerce, that is not well regulated, and by far creative people, authors, songwriters, and others are paying for it to the point that they are being beggared. Tech companies state they are “user” oriented.  That’s fine.  But that creates an imbalance.  So FCC web-policies need to be firmly content- or data-generator oriented to balance the picture and create true neutrality.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 7:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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